Interesting GERD Development

I am still wrestling with GERD, and I have discovered an anomaly!

I started taking probiotics (Vitacost brand) about a month or so ago. Probiotics are supposed to aid in managing GERD symptoms and I’d been taking Kyo-Dophilus before I got the Vitacost brand without issues. Soon after starting these, I began to have bouts of severe hypersalivation (called “water bashing”) which is caused by acids touching the esophagus an causing an automatic salivary response. In addition to having a LOT of saliva, swallowing it would make the GERD even worse! It was keeping me up at night.

I was even getting GERD spikes during the day and occasional water bashing during the day! I thought I was doomed to start back on PPIs to get rid of this nasty symptom. As it was, I was having to take Pepcid (H2) several times a week just to sleep.

Tuesday I decided to look up probiotics and GERD. Lo and behold, there IS actually a correlation to taking them and having worse GERD symptoms! Sigh. I, apparently, am one of the people who have bad results with probiotics. LUCKY ME! I stopped taking the probiotic yesterday and the GERD has already backed off a bit. I think it’s the Vitacost brand that has something in it that does not agree with me. Nonetheless, probiotics are OUT.

I’m still having some water bashing – I had a couple of short bouts last night. I’m hoping it will cease now that I’m off the probiotics. The minor good news is that the H2 (Pepcid) does not seem to cause complete constipation, so I think I can safely use that for nighttime GERD.

So, if you are taking probiotics and your GERD is no better, try stopping them. They might be making it worse!

This fucking issue (GERD) is a moving target. UGH. I’m mostly OK, but it is something I deal with every single day. BUT would I choose to skip VSG knowing that I’d have GERD? NOPE. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I’d do it again. It’s worth playing the odds that you won’t have GERD like I do. I think most do NOT. But I will tell you to get OFF PPIs as soon as you possibly can, so your body does not become dependent like mine did. GERD is no joke!

Colcannon Cottage Pie

I was discussing food with a friend and he said that he likes colcannon and shepherd’s pie. So that sparked inspiration! I had a head of red cabbage that I needed to use and all the ingredients for cottage – not shepherd’s – pie, so this is what I made. Shepherd’s pie has lamb and is my preference, but I didn’t have any ground lamb on hand, so Cottage Pie it is! I used beef and pork, but all beef, all pork or all lamb is fine. I didn’t use enough cabbage, so I upped the amount in the recipe. I use things like Kitchen Bouquet and Maggi seasoning, which can be omitted, just use more soy and L&P worcestershire. ALSO, I used instant potatoes on purpose. I like that they are perfectly smooth and I can control the consistency easily. They also get a nice brown on them. You can certainly make your own creamed potatoes if you wish, just make sure they are not too loose if you plan on piping them like I did. The main recipe is for a large 9×12 casserole (8 servings), but it can be cut down to an 8×8 square (4 servings) by halving the recipe.

angelas colcannon cottage pie
Angela’s Colcannon Cottage Pie
angelas colcannon cottage pie
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Angela's Colcannon Cottage Pie

Cottage pie is shepherd's pie, but made with beef rather than lamb. Colcannon is cabbage with mashed potatoes. These two together seemed like a no brainer! Delicious!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Irish
Keyword colcannon, Irish cottage pie, shepherds pie
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author misangela

Equipment

  • 9x12 baking dish
  • Large skillet
  • medium saucepan
  • gallon plastic bag

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb 90/10 ground beef sub lamb
  • 1 Lb ground pork sub beef or lamb
  • 1 large carrot, diced about 1/2 cup
  • 2 celery stalks, diced about 1/2 cup
  • 2/3 cup frozen green peas
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced a heaping Tbl
  • 1 medium onion, diced OR one large onion, dice about 2/3 cup, slice the rest into half moons
  • 1 small onion, halved then sliced if needed
  • 6 cups red or green cabbage, sliced thinly, lightly tossed with salt to soften before cooking cut into 2" pieces; cut cabbage into quarters before slicing; a mandolin is handy if your knife cuts are not consistent
  • 3 1/2 cups instant potato flakes OR sub 2# creamed potatoes, very smooth and very stiff for use in a piping bag
  • bacon fat optional but delicious
  • butter used in several places
  • 2 Tbl flour any kind is fine
  • 2 cups cream or half n half more or less, depending on thickness of potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream more or less, depending on thickness of potatoes
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbl red wine or apple cider vinegar for cabbage
  • 1 Tbl Kitchen Bouquet a browning sauce, amps up flavor of meat, optional
  • 1 Tbl Maggi seasoning another brown sauce for umami, optional
  • 2 Tbl Soy sauce I use Kikkoman Light (green cap); use more if omitting browning sauces
  • 3 Tbl L&P Worcestershire sauce more, to taste if omitting browning sauces
  • 1 Tbl curry powder optional
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry marjoram sub oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder optional, but gives deeper flavor
  • 1 tsp onion powder optional, but gives deeper flavor

Instructions

  • As always, prep all the ingredients first. It will make the cooking go more smoothly. Especially on a multi ingredient recipe such as this one.
  • Cook meat layer first. In a large skillet, put a Tbl of bacon fat (or olive oil) over medium high heat. When fat is hot, add carrot, celery, diced onion and 2/3 of the garlic. Turn heat down to medium and sweat (not brown) the veg until soft, about 5 mins.
  • Break up ground meat. Push veg to the sides of the pan and add meat to center. Turn heat back up to medium high. Add about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper to the meat. Stir and continue to break up meat as it cooks for about 4-5 minutes.
  • When meat has mostly cooked, add flour and stir all veg and meat together. Turn down heat to medium and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. If it is getting very dry, add some of the soy sauce to loosen up. You don't want to burn the veg.
  • Add all the dry spices: curry, thyme, marjoram, onion and garlic powders. Stir.
  • Add liquids: kitchen bouquet, maggi, soy and L&P. Add frozen peas. You should have a pretty tight ragout. If it is still really dry, add some water until there's just a little sauce. You don't want it too loose, this is the base of your casserole. Check for seasoning.
  • Pour meat ragout into casserole dish that has been sprayed with food release (PAM). Make an even layer.
  • Now, move on to the cabbage layer. Wipe out or rinse the skillet and add 1 Tbl bacon fat (or butter) over medium high heat.
  • When fat is hot, add in the sliced onion, wilted cabbage and the remaining garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent and cabbage is cooked. Turn heat to medium to avoid burning. If it gets too dry, add a splash of water.
  • When cooked, season cabbage with vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Make second layer over the meat in the casserole dish.
  • Now the final layer: creamed potatoes. If you've made potatoes from scratch, make sure they are seasoned to your liking (WITH sour cream) and pretty tight. They need to hold a peak. Skip this next section about how to make instant potatoes. BUT do put sour cream in the potatoes!
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Make instant potatoes. Put about 2.5 cups water into a medium (2 qt) saucepan over high heat with 4 Tbl butter. When they reach a boil, add potato flakes a little at a time, whisking as you go. Turn down heat to med. When the water is absorbed, add 2 cups of cream or half n half. Whisk in the liquid and whisk in remaining potato flakes. Remove from heat.
  • The potatoes should be very stiff. Add sour cream and whisk. You are looking for a thick consistency that will hold a peak. Adjust liquids to achieve this. Check salt level.
  • Put creamed potatoes into a gallon ziplock bag (or pastry bag if you have one). You can do this in two batches. Cut corner of bag off, making it about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch hole.
  • Pipe potatoes onto cabbage layer. I do round globs with peaks, see photo. If you want to be really fancy, you can use a pastry bag with a star tip. OR you can simply spoon on if you prefer. I like the look of the piped potatoes.
  • Spray potatoes with food release (PAM) to help them brown.
  • Bake casserole in oven for 30-40 minutes - until potatoes are browned.
  • Let rest 10 minutes before you serve it. ENJOY!

Homestyle Dal

I happened across a bag of moong dal on the sale rack at Kroger a while back, so I picked it up in order to try making dal! In the interim, I also came across a Bon Appétit In The Kitchen episode about kadhi (yogurt soup), so I am officially in an Indian phase of cooking. :) I have a cabinet full of Indian masalas and spices, so I’ll note the ones that you can easily skip or I’ll give you a substitution. This is not a traditional recipe; the use of raisins and coconut milk came from one of the many recipes I perused to get the idea for this. There are as many dal recipes as there are cooks! Make it your own!

homestyle dal
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Angela's Homestyle Dal

Perfect comfort food! I think of this as Indian mac n cheese! Make it vegan by using oil rather than ghee to toast the spices.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Keyword comfort food, dal, moong dal, red lentils
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author misangela

Equipment

  • 6 qt soup pot

Ingredients

  • 1 cup split red lentils (masoor dal) rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup split mung beans (moong dal) rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet peppers, diced 2-3 small ones or 1/2 large one
  • 6 scallions, sliced on the bias white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins optional
  • 1 can 14 oz coconut milk/cream
  • 3 cups water or chicken stock if not vegetarian cover the dal by 1"
  • 1/4 cup ghee sub oil for vegan
  • 2 Tbl ginger paste OR about 2" fresh ginger microplaned
  • 3 Tbl tomato paste
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp chat masala optional
  • 2 tsp asafoetida (Indian spice blend) SUB 1 tsp each onion powder and garlic powder
  • 1 Tbl curry powder
  • 2 tsp salt TO TASTE
  • 2 Tbl cilantro, chopped
  • Rice for serving optional

Instructions

  • Thoroughly rinse the lentils and mung beans. Add to pot with diced carrot and water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils start to soften. Then add peppers, 2/3 of the scallions, raisins and coconut milk. Keep at a slow simmer. Adjust water to get the consistency you like. I like mine THICK, so I let it cook down, but if you like it soupy, add more liquid.
  • In a small saucepan, melt ghee over medium heat. When hot, add the seeds and fry for a minute. Then add powdered spices and fry for another minute. Then add pastes and fry for another minute. Do not use too high of heat! The spices need to bloom, but not burn.
  • When spices have bloomed and smell fragrant, add to dal. Stir thoroughly and cook for another 5 minutes or so. The complete cook time should be anywhere from 20-30 minutes.
  • Adjust salt.
  • Serve over rice with scallions and cilantro as garnish. I also like this with a dollop of plain yogurt on the side.

Notes

To make vegetarian, use water instead of chicken stock. 
To make vegan, use water and sub oil for ghee. 
This dish is nicely complemented with yogurt! 
This recipe makes about 1.5 quarts of dal. You can freeze leftovers. 
I highly recommend finding the Indian spices. It makes all the difference. 

How to Cook More Like a Chef

People ask me for recipes allll the time. There is a treasure trove of them in this blog – I’m putting them into the recipe format now. To see all of them together, go to the View Posts by Category drop down menu to the right and choose Angela’s Recipes, which bring that whole category up and you can browse.

But there’s more to making great food than recipes. There are techniques that one uses in every dish one prepares – and they are often not written out in recipes. I know *I* often forget to put them in! I’ve written about this before, so go read that post as well.

So, here’s a list of things I can think of, off the top of my head, that home cooks often do not do and they should:

Season as you go. This means salt and pepper. You MUST properly season your food or it will be bland. I’ve had bland salsa before, so this has nothing to do with spices, this is SEASONING.

Use acid. This means balance your dishes with an acidic element such as citrus juice, vinegar or a pickle. American cooks tend to not use enough acid in cooking. Most well developed food styles (Italian, Greek, French, etc.) will always include an acidic element, but American foods tend not to. So be aware and try a little lemon on a dish that seems “flat”. It will wake it up!

Make a sauce. There is a lot to be said for making sauces. Even something as simple as adding citrus zest/juice to mayo can change it completely and add much to a dish. The art of sauce making is well developed in French and Italian cooking, but not so much in American kitchens. Gravies are fairly common, but most people can’t make even a basic flour gravy. Learn to make a basic bechamel (white gravy) sauce and you’ll then be able to make a whole host of dishes such as mac and cheese, lasagne and scalloped vegetables. You can use the same method (fat + flour) to make brown sauces, too, and thicken soups. For Asian dishes, sauces are made with cornstarch, which is a different method, but also handy to know. There are a zillion youtube videos to show you how to make sauces! Go forth and sauce!

Learn how to control the heat. I see novice cooks use HIGH heat way, way too often. There is the notion that high heat is a) faster, b) better to sear and c) how to preheat a pan – amongst other things. IT IS NOT. I actually told someone recently: “NEVER use HIGH. Just don’t. High is never necessary.” And for the most part, that is true. Putting a pan on high heat will certainly heat it up, but it is not like a thermostat where it gets to HIGH then stops. The pan will continue to heat up! The only time high heat should be used is to boil water. Seriously. I rarely go above medium high on the stovetop. There are also different SIZES of burners on most home ranges. Use the smallest one you can and that will help prevent you from overheating the pan and food. Generally, most things that are cooked on a range are cooked at medium or below. Once a liquid is brought to a boil, you can keep it simmering at medium or lower. You can get a nice sear on meats at no more than medium high. Pay attention to what is called for in the recipe (it should have range and oven temps!) and when in doubt, go LOWER. Most things that are baked are going to be in the 350-400F range. If there’s no temp given, go with 350F. If it’s smoking, IT IS TOO HOT.

Learn knife skills. First: get a good quality knife and keep it sharp. I am partial to Henckels/Zwilling knives, but I recently got a Misen that is STELLAR. Spend around $50-75 on a good 8″ chef’s knife (French or Santoku, whichever you prefer) and KEEP IT SHARP. I can’t stress enough that a sharp knife is ESSENTIAL. A dull knife causes accidents (you have to exert too much pressure) and mangles what you’re cutting. Once you have a good knife, get thee to youtube and watch some knife tutorials. Get some onions, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes and start practicing. Good technique is KEY to using a knife properly. Get that finger OFF the top of the knife!! Technique = control, and practice definitely helps you gain confidence. Learn how to use a knife properly!! (I may do another post about knife skills with some photos. Stay tuned.)

Cook more. I know this seems out of place in this list, but TRULY, you have to actually cook in order to get better at it. SO many people ask me for cooking lessons, but honestly, other than a little knife skills help, you learn to cook by doing it. You learn to read and execute recipes by doing them. Having someone stand over your shoulder will not do a single thing to help raise your skills. Practice is the only way to get better at cooking. Sorry, lazy people, but if you want to cook better, then you have to actually cook. This is not something you can watch videos or read about and learn. It is a skill, a trade, which is why cooks apprentice! Just like being a plumber or electrician, you must do the work to learn it.

Cook other cuisines than your native one. I can’t recommend enough cooking outside your ethnic base. Not only will it expand your palate, it will teach you about herbs, spices and how to balance flavours. I especially recommend learning how to cook Asian recipes. The reason is that Asian foods tend to be balanced between sweet, salty, bitter, spicy and umami. Japanese and Thai in particular are very well balanced. Indian food is another good ethnicity to try. Yes, you may have to buy some specialty ingredients, but I promise, once you try them, you’ll start using them all over the place. I see FAR too many people who won’t eat anything beyond fast food and won’t try anything, either. By not challenging your palate, you have a very narrow view of flavours and your ability to use various ingredients properly suffers. By learning about flavour profiles of other cultures, you’ll increase your flavour intelligence and your cooking quality will get better.

Watch cooking shows. No, REALLY! I especially like Chopped to learn about various ingredients. Watch shows from Bon Appetit (lots on Hulu). Watch cooking tutorials on youtube. Watch food documentaries to learn about different cuisines. It doesn’t really matter what you watch, you’ll end up learning more about cooking and that’s the goal. You need to train your brain to think about food and how it’s prepared. Watching foodie things will help with that.

If you want to be a great cook, you MUST be open to new flavours. If you are a picky eater, you likely will not be a very good cook – because you don’t understand the vast world of ingredients and flavours. To cultivate your palate, you must be able to get past your personal preferences and be able to taste ANYTHING. I will eat just about anything, but I do draw the line at bugs in whole form – although I’ll eat them if they are ground up. I tried chitlins and they are as nasty as you’d think, but I tried them anyway. You must be fearless when it comes to trying new things. Period. Some things that smell gross (kimchi and ripe cheeses for instance) often have the most sublime flavours. You just have to give it a chance!

When I was catering, people asked me OFTEN how I knew how to make [whatever I was serving that night]. I tell them I am very curious and I’m willing to try new cuisines and recipes. I loved the catering job because I could make whatever my heart desired – so I did! I did pub grub, street tacos, Puerto Rican, Moroccan, Italian, Indian, Korean and I’d make whatever people requested. It was a blast! I had a lot of fun taking iconic dishes such as Puerto Rican Fricassee and escabeche and making them buffet friendly.

Another bit of advice for those who wish to up their cooking game: pick a genre, find some recipes (As genuine as you can find, NOT Pinterest! Want Korean? Go to koreanbapsang.com. Spruce Eats has many good recipes for all cuisines. Bon Appetit, Epicurious and even Food Network all have good recipes.), get the ingredients and start cooking. If it doesn’t turn out? SO WHAT? I find that even when a recipe doesn’t turn out just like you wanted, it is rarely inedible. This goes back to COOKING MORE.

And finally: learn the ways of NO WASTE. Eat leftovers. Learn to make leftovers into something else. People who won’t eat leftovers drive me INSANE. It goes back to being picky and not knowing how to transform leftovers into something else. Food waste is a huge issue in the US (and the whole world), and is covered in THIS post. But if you’ve got leftovers sitting in the fridge, simply go to google and type in “flank steak, baked potato and cooked carrots recipe”. You’d be amazed what will turn up.

Now get out there and cook something!

Lemon Asparagus Pasta

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Lemon Asparagus Pasta

This light pasta dish is easy to make and has loads of flavour! Wonderful for a midweek dinner.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword angel hair pasta, asparagus, lemon, parmesan sauce, vegetarian pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author misangela

Ingredients

  • 1/4 box angela hair pasta You can use any type you like, but longer holds the sauce better.
  • 1 bundle asparagus, cut thinly on bias longways or shaved on mandoline (you want it to be bendable when cooked so it's easy to eat with the pasta) about 1#
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbl EVOO extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbl butter I always use salted; it really doesn't matter
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice (about 2-3 Tbl juice) Medium size, if large, it may only take one or 1.5 lemons. Use fresh juice in this dish.
  • 1/2 cup white wine optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan use a good one for this dish (reggiano)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbl fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 Tbl fresh parsley, medium chop
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • Put on 2 qt of water to boil.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium and add EVOO. When oil is hot, add asparagus and garlic. Salt the veg as it gently sautés. Adjust heat towards med hi to get a very light sizzle.
  • When water boils, add a heaping tablespoon of salt, then add pasta. Angel hair cooks in about 8 minutes.
  • When veg is soft, add lemon zest, red pepper flakes and wine. Cook for another minute, then turn down heat to low if you are waiting for the pasta.
  • When pasta is done (al dente, don't overcook it), use a pasta spoon to transfer to the skillet with veg. (Don't drain it, you'll need some of that pasta water!)
  • Combine pasta with veg and turn heat back to medium. Add lemon juice, parmesan and basil. Stir fairly aggressively to release the starch from the pasta and coat with cheese and butter. Add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to create a light sauce. Check the salt level and overall flavour. The pasta should have soaked up the light sauce and be relatively dry. This is not a saucy dish, but it should be silky and the pasta should taste like the sauce. Adjust water, butter and parmesan to achieve this.
  • Serve with parmesan and chopped parsley.

Notes

I did the asparagus in stages. I cooked about 3/4 of it, then I added the rest at the end of cooking so it would keep some crunch and freshness. 
If your asparagus is rather thick, use a peeler to remove the bottom peel. This will make it more pliable and less woody. 
Do not put in the lemon juice while the asparagus is sautéing. It will become bitter. Always add citrus juice after the main cooking is done.